CLEVELAND (AP)—Victor Martinez wasn’t sure how to react to his first game-ending home run—so he slid into a pile of joyous teammates at home plate.
The Twins rallied from an early seven-run deficit, but left 13 runners on base as they lost their third straight and fell 2 1/2 games behind the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central with 11 games remaining.
“I guess you can call it heartbreaking,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It’s a tough one to swallow. We’re snakebit.”
Franklin Gutierrez opened the 11th with a line single off Joe Nathan (0-2) and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ben Francisco. Jhonny Peralta walked and Martinez hit a 1-1 pitch over the wall in right-center for his second homer.
“It was a fantastic feeling,” Martinez said. “I wasn’t flying around the bases, but I was enjoying it. I slid because I was just reacting to being happy. I didn’t know what else to do.
“I hit it good, then watched and was hoping it would go out. I am so happy because man, he’s one of the greatest closers. He’s real tough.”
Martinez’s season has been tough. The two-time All-Star averaged 21 homers and 99 RBIs over the previous four seasons, but missed two months this year after having elbow surgery in June and went 202 at-bats before hitting his first homer on Sept. 2.
Tom Mastny (2-2) gave up one hit in the 11th and earned the win.
Minnesota will seek to salvage the last of three games in Cleveland on Wednesday night, sending right-hander Scott Baker to the mound on three days’ rest. Baker, who pitched Saturday in Baltimore when his start was moved back a day because of rain, will face 22-game winner Cliff Lee.
“We know who we face, believe me,” Gardenhire said. “You always look at your schedule to see who you’re going up against. He’s not one you want to see.”
Martinez didn’t particularly relish facing Nathan, either. He came to the plate 1-for-10 in his career against the right-hander, who never allowed a homer to end a game in his first 427 career appearances.
“I made a bad pitch to the wrong guy,” Nathan said. “He’s a dangerous hitter. It was up and over the plate.”
Grady Sizemore hit his 32nd homer, off the foul pole in right field to tie it at 9, against Eddie Guardado in the bottom half. Sizemore had been 0-for-8 with three strikeouts in his career against the veteran left-hander.
“I take the blame for this,” said Guardado, who was reacquired by the Twins from Texas on Aug. 25. “They got me over here to do my job. I didn’t do it and it had to be in a pennant race.”
Ryan Garko homered and drove in four runs to help Cleveland to an 8-1 lead.
Cleveland added four runs in the third, helped by two errors by the Twins and a wild pitch by Liriano.
Liriano gave up a career-high eight runs—four earned—and six hits over 2 2-3 innings in his worst outing since being recalled from Triple-A Rochester. The left-hander had been 5-0 with a 1.57 ERA in eight starts since rejoining the Twins on Aug. 1.
Liriano went 12-3 in 2006 before missing all of 2007 after elbow surgery.
The Twins got five hits and four runs in the fifth to pull within 8-5.
Gomez hit an RBI double and scored on Matt Tolbert’s single. Mauer added an RBI single and another run scored on a groundout by Morneau.
Jackson gave up nine hits and seven runs over 5 1-3 innings in his seventh start since being acquired as part of the trade that sent CC Sabathia to Milwaukee in July.
Trailing 8-7 in the seventh, Minnesota loaded the bases with one out on two walks by reliever Brendan Donnelly and a catcher’s interference call on Martinez. Carlos Gomez, already with three RBIs, then lined a 1-1 pitch directly at third baseman Andy Marte, who stepped on the bag to complete an inning-ending double play.
Tolbert’s bunt single in the first was the 59th by the Twins. Cincinnati came in with the second-most bunt hits in the majors, 30. … RHP Jesse Crain may rejoin the Twins on Wednesday. His wife, Becky, gave birth to a daughter, Avery, on Monday night. … Indians RHP Anthony Reyes will not pitch again this season because of a sore elbow. … Cleveland signed 21-year-old RHP Chen-Chang Lee, who pitched for Taiwan in the Olympics.